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Reviewed July 2009

What is the official name of the EPM2A gene?

The official name of this gene is “epilepsy, progressive myoclonus type 2A, Lafora disease (laforin).”

EPM2A is the gene's official symbol. The EPM2A gene is also known by other names, listed below.

Read more about gene names and symbols on the About page.

What is the normal function of the EPM2A gene?

The EPM2A gene provides instructions for making a protein called laforin. Although this protein is active in cells throughout the body, it appears to play a critical role in the survival of nerve cells (neurons) in the brain.

Studies suggest that laforin has multiple functions within cells. To carry out these functions, laforin interacts with several other proteins, including malin (which is produced from the NHLRC1 gene). These proteins are part of complex networks that transmit chemical signals and break down unneeded or abnormal proteins. Additionally, laforin may act as a tumor suppressor protein, which means that it keeps cells from growing and dividing in an uncontrolled way.

Laforin and malin likely play a critical role in regulating the production of a complex sugar called glycogen. Glycogen is a major source of stored energy in the body. The body stores this sugar in the liver and muscles, breaking it down when it is needed for fuel. Researchers believe that laforin and malin may prevent a potentially damaging buildup of glycogen in tissues that do not normally store this molecule, such as those of the nervous system.

Does the EPM2A gene share characteristics with other genes?

The EPM2A gene belongs to a family of genes called PTP (protein tyrosine phosphatases).

A gene family is a group of genes that share important characteristics. Classifying individual genes into families helps researchers describe how genes are related to each other. For more information, see What are gene families? in the Handbook.

How are changes in the EPM2A gene related to health conditions?

Lafora progressive myoclonus epilepsy - caused by mutations in the EPM2A gene

More than 50 mutations in the EPM2A gene have been identified in people with Lafora progressive myoclonus epilepsy. Many of these mutations change single protein building blocks (amino acids) in the laforin protein. Other mutations delete or insert genetic material in the EPM2A gene. Almost all mutations in this gene prevent cells from producing any laforin or lead to the production of a nonfunctional version of the protein.

It is unclear how mutations in the EPM2A gene lead to the major features of Lafora progressive myoclonus epilepsy. Studies suggest that a loss of laforin prevents cells from regulating the production of glycogen. As a result, distinctive clumps called Lafora bodies form within many types of cells. Lafora bodies are made up of an abnormal form of glycogen (called polyglucosan) that cannot be broken down and used for fuel. Instead, polyglucosans build up to form clumps that can damage cells. Neurons appear to be particularly vulnerable to this type of damage. Although Lafora bodies are found in many of the body's tissues, the signs and symptoms of Lafora progressive myoclonus epilepsy are limited to the nervous system.

Researchers are uncertain how a loss of functional laforin contributes to the formation of Lafora bodies. However, a lack of this protein ultimately results in the death of neurons, which interferes with the brain's normal functions. The degeneration of neurons likely underlies the seizures, movement abnormalities, intellectual decline, and other neurological problems seen with Lafora progressive myoclonus epilepsy.

Where is the EPM2A gene located?

Cytogenetic Location: 6q24

Molecular Location on chromosome 6: base pairs 145,500,777 to 145,736,303

(Homo sapiens Annotation Release 107, GRCh38.p2) (NCBIThis link leads to a site outside Genetics Home Reference.)

The EPM2A gene is located on the long (q) arm of chromosome 6 at position 24.

The EPM2A gene is located on the long (q) arm of chromosome 6 at position 24.

More precisely, the EPM2A gene is located from base pair 145,500,777 to base pair 145,736,303 on chromosome 6.

See How do geneticists indicate the location of a gene? in the Handbook.

Where can I find additional information about EPM2A?

You and your healthcare professional may find the following resources about EPM2A helpful.

You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for genetics professionals and researchers.

What other names do people use for the EPM2A gene or gene products?

  • epilepsy, progressive myoclonus type 2, Lafora disease (laforin)
  • EPM2
  • laforin
  • LD
  • LDE
  • MELF

Where can I find general information about genes?

The Handbook provides basic information about genetics in clear language.

These links provide additional genetics resources that may be useful.

What glossary definitions help with understanding EPM2A?

acids ; epilepsy ; gene ; glycogen ; molecule ; myoclonus ; myoclonus epilepsy ; nervous system ; neurological ; phosphatase ; protein ; specificity ; tumor

You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.

See also Understanding Medical Terminology.

References (14 links)


The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.

Reviewed: July 2009
Published: February 8, 2016